Police in Montgomery County are urging residents to lock their car doors after 45 vehicles were broken into in the past few weeks. The most recent crimes swept parts of Chevy Chase and Bethesda.
Police say in every case, the victims invited the thieves over—by leaving their vehicle doors unlocked. The crime spree is now becoming a much-needed wake-up call to residents of Montgomery County's Glen Echo neighborhood.
Fred Press is urging his wife to change her habits after valuables were snatched from dozens of unlocked cars.
“I like to think I have probably saved hours and hours of fumbling for my keys and using my keys. I've probably saved a year by not locking my doors,” said Chevy Chase resident Susan Press.
She's lived off Brookville Road in Chevy Chase since 1978—a community that prides itself on safety—sometimes too much so that residents let their guard down.
“In this neighborhood, the assumption we should be pretty free from crime,” Fred Press said.
Police say the most recent incident happened this past Monday, when three men in black clothing were seen walking around a neighborhood at about 4 a.m. looking into cars with flashlights. They fled when they were spotted by a neighbor.
Montgomery County police say it's time to get street smart. Police are reporting nearly four dozen thefts from automobiles over the past few weeks. Detectives also released home surveillance video of a would-be vandal trying to break into a car in the 4300 block of Skymist Terrace in Olney, Maryland—two months ago.
It appears as though the same suspect tried to hit up the same car—two times in one night. Luckily, the vehicle was locked.
“One of the things that we keep stressing is lock your car. Make sure your windows are locked in the house. Lock the doors,” said Chevy Chase Section 3 Council Chairman Bill Brownlee.
Brownlee says a community letter goes out regularly pinpointing any crimes and reminding residents—does what they've always been taught. A lesson people like Susan Press are starting to take seriously.
“If you make it just a little bit harder, that seems to be the kind of thing you could then deter,” Press said.
Police say in these "crimes of opportunity,” car owners make two mistakes: they don't lock their doors and leave valuables inside.
In two of the most recent cases, the keys were left inside the car and the thieves drove off.
According to AAA stats, thefts appear to be on the uptick in D.C. There were 7,000 car break-ins in 2010 and close to 8,000 in 2011. So far this year, there are around 3,300 thefts from automobiles.